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January 26, 2010

Tierney: There's too much focus on health reform

PEABODY — A week after Republican Scott Brown's stunning Senate victory, Congressman John Tierney said Democrats allowed intense focus on health care reform to overshadow the rest of their agenda.

"If you get so consumed with health care, (voters) think you're not paying attention to jobs," Tierney said. "In fact, we have been."

Tierney also said that Democrats let the health care debate get distorted by those seeking to confuse and scare people.

"By the time the president got to the megaphone," Tierney said, "other people had stepped in." It is why the myth of "death panels" convinced some that their grandmother would die if the changes were enacted, he said.

The Salem Democrat spoke yesterday to local mayors and town managers at a breakfast meeting organized by the Essex National Heritage Commission. He did not criticize Attorney General Martha Coakley's failed campaign but challenged his party, beginning with President Obama, to communicate better with voters. He also said that he would not support a health care bill resembling what passed in the Senate.

"The president has got to get back into the business of explaining to people why," Tierney said in a interview after the meeting in the Peabody Marriott. "You can't assume that just because you had a good campaign and people really connected with you that now they're just going to implicitly trust you."

Obama, Tierney said, has to be the loudest voice on a range of issues.

"People need to know exactly what's going on," he said. "It needs to be explained clearly enough so that they understand that it's happening for their benefit."

Brown's election has imperiled health care reform because it eliminated Democrats' filibuster-proof majority of 60 in the Senate.

"I don't know how it's going to work out," Tierney, a reform supporter, said of health care.

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